When Sean Endecott Elliott found new running shoes he liked, he didn’t just switch — he espoused their scientific benefits while on runs with friends. As house manager of a UC Davis fraternity, he didn’t just keep things clean — he gave detailed instructions on scrubbing toilets.
“Effort and enthusiasm — no one had more of it,” said Jason Pepper ’10, his former roommate.
He focused that energy on preparing himself for a career in the military, and when he graduated in 2009, Elliott was sworn in as a Marine Corps officer.
By 2013 he had risen to the rank of captain, flying variations of the C-130 airplane in various locales around the world. His military career ended prematurely last July when a plane he was co-piloting crashed in a field in rural Mississippi, killing Elliott and all 15 others aboard. See our report on the crash.
Now his name will go on our Gold Star Aggies Wall with the names of 135 other UC Davis students and alumni who died in military service to their country, in the campus’s annual Memorial Day Ceremony, set to begin at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 24. See box for details.
Elliott also gets a page in our Golden Memory Book, which sits in a display case next to a pair of monitors where you can view individual pages electronically. The book and monitors are part of the overall Gold Star Aggies Wall, which was unveiled last year after the Memorial Union’s latest renovation.
His biography in the Golden Memory Book will sit alongside entries from veterans dating back to World War I — a fitting honor for Elliott, who was a history buff. His middle name, Endecott, is in honor of John Endecott, a distant relative who was a leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, said his mother, Cindy Elliott.
His gravesite is at Arlington National Cemetery, the nation’s most hallowed ground, dating back to the Civil War.
This year’s keynote speaker will be Jake Smith ’03, who remembers working on campus in a computer lab on the day of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Then-Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef addressed members of the campus in Freeborn Hall the following morning, calling for unity.
Smith said the events of that day affected him deeply, and he made a vow shortly after. “If this war is still going on by the time I graduate I’m going to do something about it,” Smith recalled telling himself at the time.
A couple years later, he made good on that promise, joining the Army. He served in a Special Forces unit, providing intelligence support for the Green Berets, special operations units from other branches of the military, and others. He deployed to Afghanistan three times in that role, and once as a private contractor after leaving the Army. He attained the rank of staff sergeant and was twice awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service.
When Smith returned home, he enrolled in the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. One of his favorite law school memories was an internship with the state Senate, where he was able to work with the Veterans Affairs Committee.
He is now an estate planning attorney in Vacaville and Sacramento, and said he especially enjoys working with veterans, many of whom served in Vietnam.
“They were treated so poorly when they got out of the service,” he said. “I try to go that extra mile to help them out and try to thank them.”